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Co-Creating the City You Want to Live In

Co-Creating the City You Want to Live In

Being a small business owner, especially in a smaller town, can give you an up front look at how local government works… and at what’s not working as well as it should. Here’s an interview with one strong citizen who’s hoping to take what he’s learned to City Hall.

Austin's Bad Party: The Failure of CodeNEXT

Austin's Bad Party: The Failure of CodeNEXT

Austin’s CodeNEXT process, a dramatic overhaul of the city’s zoning code, tried to placate multiple constituencies with a “grand bargain.” The result was a draft code that satisified almost no one and failed to solve the city’s housing and growth challenges.

Risking Some Tough Talk

Risking Some Tough Talk

You can’t build stroads, subsidize big box stores and accept endless edge development, and have that work out for you just because you threw a block party, painted a mural and put in a temporary bike lane.

Getting a Response From Local Leaders

Getting a Response From Local Leaders

Sometimes our community leaders don’t do what we think they should. Here are some suggestions for getting their attention and influencing the agenda in your town or city.

Who Is the "Public" at Public Meetings?

Who Is the "Public" at Public Meetings?

New research out of Boston University confirms that those who speak at local public hearings are not representative of the public as a whole. Elected officials seeking to understand constituents’ views should treat these hearings as only one source among many.

The Art of Being a Red State Liberal

The Art of Being a Red State Liberal

It’s easy to caricature people you don’t know or understand, and it can be satisfying in a superficial way. It’s much more difficult to accept that people are multidimensional, and what you know of one dimension may not represent the entire human being.

The Week Ahead: What's the agenda here?

The Week Ahead: What's the agenda here?

Chuck and Rachel chat about recent articles which have garnered a ton of attention on the internet over the past week. They also discuss the non-partisan nature of Strong Towns.

Debate Questions

Questions that I would like to see asked of our presidential candidates.

1. Is the problem with residential housing the bubble or the bust? If you believe the bubble, what is your strategy for transitioning to a new equilibrium in housing prices. If you believe the bust, what do you think should be done to restore the market conditions of 2005?

2. You both advocate infrastructure spending as a way to create growth and jobs. What is the causation between infrastructure spending and growth? Is there ever a point of diminishing returns and how would you know when that point has been reached?

3. You have both quoted studies from the American Society of Civil Engineers. ASCE calls for a 650% increase in highway spending, $2.2 trillion over the next five years, to catch our highways up to what they call "minimum tolerable conditions". There is no support for anywhere near this level of spending in Congress, among the American people or, I suspect, from either of you. What is your alternative plan? 

4. What role does the federal government have in land use policy?

5. The Federal Reserve has a program of buying $40 billion worth of mortgage securities monthly. Do you support this policy and, if so, what do you believe it will ultimately achieve? If you do not support it, why? 

6. Excluding those already convicted or under indictment, can you identify any individual in the United States that you believe should be held criminally responsible for financial fraud?

7. Are banks that are considered too-big-to-fail an essential part of the American economy? If yes, do you see any downside to this consolidation and how would you address that? If no, what is your plan to end the current too-big-to-fail situation?

8. What role do local and regional banks have in revitalizing America's economy? If you believe they have a significant role, what would your administration do to address local and regional bank insolvencies brought about by real estate declines?

9. Do Americans save enough? What do you think are the implications of your answer?

10. You both claim we are headed to energy independence, largely because of new innovations in natural gas recovery. Assuming this is true, how long will it take to switch our automobile fleet, service stations, refineries and distribution systems from oil-derived gasoline to natural gas or natural-gas created electricity? How much will that cost and what is your plan to make that happen?

11. An unfathomable amount of the energy produced in power plants is wasted as a normal part of daily operation. In an energy-hungry world, what steps, if any, would you take to capture this lost energy?

12. Can government be innovative? If yes, provide examples of how? If no, what steps need to be taken to avoid stagnation in critical government sectors?

13. Should states be laboratories? How is this done without leaving some behind?

14. Businesses learn significantly from small and modest failures. Is this an approach that applies to government? If so, how would your administration embrace small failures to make larger progress? If not, how would you propose that government innovates and expands its knowledge?

15. Canada has a higher rate of home ownership than the United States, yet they have no mortgage interest deduction. What is the purpose of the mortgage interest deduction if not to increase home ownership rates? If increasing home ownership rates is the purpose, what has gone wrong?

16. How would you compare the future of a city like Detroit with the future of a city like Phoenix?

17. Do you believe America's urban areas contribute more to government revenues than they require in government services? How about suburban areas? How about rural areas? Does it matter and why?

18. If City A steals a business from City B through tax breaks and subsidies, in general, is the American economy better off?

19. Who has more impact on job creation and why: America's president or America's mayors?

20. Point to an instance in your public service career where you passed up jobs and growth today for a greater and more stable prosperity in the future.

21. If you could set the gas tax at whatever level you chose and would be ensured to have the full support of Congress and the American people in doing so, what would you set the Federal gas tax at and why?

(Please note: Strong Towns is a non-partisan 501(c)3 non-profit organization. These questions are not provided in support of one candidate or another -- that should be abundantly clear -- or in advocacy of a specific issue or cause.)

If you would like more from Chuck Marohn, check out his new book, Thoughts on Building Strong Towns (Volume 1)

You can also chat with Chuck and many others about implementing a Strong Towns approach in your community by joining the Strong Towns Network. The Strong Towns Network is a social platform for those working to make their community a strong town.